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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Hidden Lessons from Our Favorite Broadway Shows

We'll take our life lessons with some Broadway musical magic! Check out the awesome messages set to song in your favorite shows.

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Wicked: Friendship is everything

Glinda and Elphie seem like opposites, but Wicked shows us that we need to look deeper than appearances. Their evolving friendship teaches us that opposites attract, and there’s a lot to learn from difference. Sure, they critiqued one another, but they were also each other’s biggest fans. Because they looked past first impressions. Some friendships are so deep they can imprint you: “You’ll be with me, Like a handprint on my heart . . .Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” Wicked is based on characters from The Wizard of Oz. Check out our 56 weird and wonderful facts about the movie.

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Hamilton: Take your shot

You have to get inspired when you hear Hamilton and the other revolutionaries decide that they’re going to rise up. Even after they’re reminded that if they speak out they might get shot, they each decide that they’re just like their country: Young, scrappy, and hungry. The time is now. It’s time to stand up for what they believe in. We know they’re right: “Time to take a shot!” Whatever matters to you, just go for it. Accept the things you can’t avoid but “only for now!” Because the good stuff is always there too! Here are nine epic Alexander Hamilton facts not mentioned in the musical.

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Les Miserable: Put grudges aside

Oh, Javert! Sure, the epic pain in Les Miserable is intense and it hits every character and drags on for decades. But at least some of it could’ve been avoided if only Javert would quit obsessing over Valjean. Granted, the revolution would’ve persisted, but so much angst could have been put to rest. Even at the end Javert doesn’t understand why Valjean’s not seeking revenge when he sings: “It was his hour at last/ To put a seal on my fate/ Wipe out the past/ And wash me clean off the slate!/ All it would take/ Was a flick of his knife/ Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!” Dude. It’s because he let go already. You should too. Les Miz teaches us we just need to set grudges aside. Check out our list of Broadway cast albums you have to hear.

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Avenue Q: Nothing lasts forever

Why is life so hard? This R-rated Sesame Street-inspired musical is all about looking at how difficult it is to deal with life as a grown-up. Dreams crash and burn. Things gets tough and what are you supposed to do with a B.A. in English? The characters face the challenges and lament them, but in the end, they figure out the real truth about life. You can’t control it, so go with it. Nothing will last forever, so enjoy whatever “now” you’re in (including having a full head of hair). Check out these 11 ways to be more mindful and enjoy the present.

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 Dear Evan Hansen: Accept yourself

Evan Hansen is an awkward teenager with a huge case of social anxiety. He’s desperate for connection. So he helps propagate a huge lie, one that ends up hurting a lot of people. He has to come clean and that makes him hate himself and face all the worst parts of him. Then he realizes that he has to accept himself, just as he is, to get through it. Only then can others accept him too. He sings the message powerfully: “All I ever do is run so how do I step in, step into the sun?” Accepting yourself isn’t only beneficial for your self-esteem, there are health benefits to self-kindness.

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Rent: There’s no day but today

Rent taught us that there’s 529,600 minutes in a year, but it’s also crucial to live in the now. Mimi and Angel and the rest of the cast have to deal with crushing difficulties. But at the end of the day, they figure out the most important thing is living a beautiful life right in the now. Mimi puts it best: “The heart may freeze or it can burn. The pain will ease if I can learn. There is no future. There is no past. I live this moment as my last. There’s only us. There’s only this. Forget regret or life is yours to miss.”

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Grease: Don’t let gossip hurt you

Rizzo shows us how to handle being a social misfit as she deals with whispers behind her back and gossip in high school. Just because she dated a few guys and things got a little complicated—Hey, so what? In Rizzo’s climactic number she lets the audience know how vulnerable she is on the inside of that tough, “bad girl” exterior. Words sting, but she knows she’s good where it counts. And we totally understand when Rizzo sings: “I don’t steal and I don’t lie/But I can feel and I can cry.” No surprise, Grease tops our list of the best-ever movie musicals.

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Dreamgirls: You will survive a broken heart

Dreamgirls teaches us how to survive a broken heart. Love is worth it, and it’s powerful, even when you’re not loved back. Effie’s moving, showstopper “And I Am Telling You” shows her refusal to lose love. But we know Curtis is through with her. That fact barely matters because her love and her insistence that he’s gonna love her are heroic and formidable. If you’re going to suffer a broken heart, this is the way to lament it, with ache and truth and the raw talent. Whether Jennifer Holiday or Jennifer Hudson, this is the number that brings the house down number each time it’s performed. Go Effie: “I don’t want to be free/ I’m staying, I’m staying/ And you, and you, you’re gonna love me/ Oh, you’re gonna love me.” Broken heart? Here are inspiring relationship quotes to help get you through a breakup.

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West Side Story: Prejudice hurts everyone

West Side Story sends a masterful anti-prejudice message; the battle between the rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks represents the struggle between white folks and immigrants. The rousing number “America” contains the lines, “Life is all right in America/If you’re all white in America.” Tony and Maria’s love has to overcome the prejudice in the society they live in—one where they can’t cross social and racial barriers. When they sing in their make-believe marriage: “Make of our hands one hand, Make of our hearts one heart,” they mean that love rises above the limited beliefs in their families and culture.

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A Chorus Line: You can handle rejection

A Chorus Line gives us a backstage story about dancers desperate to get cast in a Broadway show. Some are newbies and some are vets, but they’re all familiar with heartbreak and rejection. Yet each has their own story. All of them are struggling to do what they love in a cutthroat world. That anxiety is captured in the number “I Hope I Get It.” They sing, “So many faces all around, and here we go. I need this job, oh God, I need this show.” At the end, only some of them get the part. We know the others feel crushing disappointment. But we know they’ll keep going to auditions.

Molly Pennington, PhD
Molly is a writer and professional astrologer with a PhD in Critical and Cultural Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. She covers the zodiac, books, movies, TV, and culture for She loves puns, puzzles, people, the planet Mars, and philosophizing.